Why Triumph was once confused with Rush: exclusive interview


A new Triumph documentary finds the comedy troupe Trailer Park Boys arguing that Rush and Triumph are, in fact, the same group. The exchange serves as a humorous acknowledgment of how easy it is for some to confuse the two groups, if only for the sole reason that they are both from Canada and the two trios.

On record, of course, the musical reality was very different. The eponymous debut of Triumph (later renamed In the beginning) arrived in October 1976 and established what would become their core characteristics: guitarist and singer Rik Emmett’s love for progressive rock and classical music mixed with the harsher rock side of drummer / singer Gil Moore, while that bassist Mike Levine brought his own elements to the band’s sound.

The members of Triumph looked back in separate exclusive conversations with UCR, also confirming once and for all that they are not Rush.

Really, Rush was a separate group

Gil Moore: You have Rush, one of the greatest bands of all time, and they have some intense fans. They were constantly on tour in America. We would have come and they would have passed through town two months earlier or two months later. Going through airports, you would have fans who weren’t really with it and who weren’t that close with either band. We were both a little faceless in a way. They would confuse groups [because of that].

It just got to the point where someone said to Mike Levine, “Are you [Rush front man] Geddy [Lee]? ”He would just say,“ Yeah, my name is Geddy. I’m just having a bad day. [Laughs.] We were just playing with it, because we liked the guys from Rush and [their music] like everyone else does. It was just a coincidence that we were both from Toronto, both as a trio. Rik has a loud voice; Geddy has a loud voice. But you know the music isn’t really similar, I don’t think so.

There were struggles at the beginning of the era

Rik Emmett: We got together and played and in the conversation and the discussion with them I realized that they are probably the smartest musicians I have ever met. They certainly have an idea of ​​what they want to do and how they are going to go about it. They didn’t even have a band yet, and they already had a recording contract. That’s the kind of shit they had together. Quite impressive. I go to the meeting and they put up posters for concerts and contracts for concerts. I say: “You don’t even have a band and you have contracts for concerts? Wow. “

When we played in Gil’s basement, the drum set he had was covered in dust. I am not making this up. They were very dusty. It was just a training kit that he obviously had never practiced on. I guess his real drums were in the garage with the shit that would go in the truck to go to the weekend gigs his band had. Mike, you could say they never trained and never played. They were really rusty. They weren’t bad musicians; it’s just that they weren’t in good shape. Of course, after about 15 or 20 minutes it was worse – because they ran out of chops to go on.

At the end of this first [rehearsal], I sat them down and I said, “Look, I’m interested. I really think it might be okay [somewhere] and I love your ideas. Gil’s ideas on production and flash pots, laser lights and flamethrowers. Dude, he talked about a great game and it looked like he knew what he was talking about. So I thought to myself, “This sounds fascinating to me. But you have to promise me that you will work out. We’re going to do a lot of pre-production. They promised and it comes from the heart.

They had arena-rock dreams

Mike Levine: We loved going to Maple Leaf Gardens. It’s really cool when the arena is full. It’s really bad when the arena is empty. You know, what is it about these bands that makes people want to come and see them? Why are we going to see them? Why are you leaving? Because you love their music. There was no MTV; there was nothing, right? So, it was all about the music and any album cover image you might like. Sometimes you’ve bought albums just from the album cover image – or while listening to the radio.

Okay, you have to make records then in order to be successful. How are you doing that? Well, you need a label first and you need the money, so we’ve got that part taken care of. But you know, we modeled the band on – I guess you could say at the start, like, we played Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple. We played a ton of Led Zeppelin. These were some of our idols, but [also] just good examples of bands doing great rock music, without necessarily having that Top 40 single.

Watch the trailer for “Triumph: Rock and Roll Machine”

Led Zeppelin was a fundamental influence

Rik Emmett: None of them really had progressive bone in their body. Gil had a really good foundation in things like Chuck Berry and Howlin ‘Wolf. He liked that kind of blues and rock. He really knew how to sing. He sang a lot like Mark Farner [of Grand Funk Railroad fame]. He had a voice like that and he liked heavy stuff. He wanted the band to go in that direction, like Grand Funk or Ted Nugent. He really liked that kind of heavy stuff.

Mike was much more laid back. He was very fond of reggae, including Bob Marley, and he loved the Eagles. So he was laid back in that regard, but he had the same kind of background in blues and R&B. Both had that kind of R&B background. They were that age. Toronto had been a very R&B place. They had it all.

The middle ground very quickly became Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin was pretty progressive, but it was more heavy rock and it was pretty cool because there was some blues stuff these guys could relate to. Zep’s rock riff became a common language at Triumph early on. This is how it started.

Why they remained a trio

Mike Levine: In our sometimes drunken conversations as we talked about the core group we were going to have, we had all been in a group that had five tracks. I was in a group of 10 musicians. Two people started a war, then four more people started fighting, and then there were more wars. You could never settle disagreements. With a group of three musicians, it’s like ultimate democracy.

It’s two against one and that’s it. It’s unanimous, or it’s two to one. It doesn’t matter who it is, it doesn’t matter, because someone’s going to end up on the end of the phone every now and then, because you’re not going to agree on everything all the time. We called it the ultimate democracy. The only way out is to leave the group. Period. There is no other way. If you don’t like it, see you later.

Remembering Their Spinal Breakdown Moment

Gil Moore: We had a [flaming] torch that would go 12 feet. When Triumph started, we were playing at a nightclub in Toronto called Geronimo’s. It had a ceiling of eight or nine feet. The torch went out and hit a sprinkler head. He filled the whole club with four inches of water before they could turn it off.

Of course, every time these sprinklers go off, the water inside those hoses gets dirty. So when he comes out, it’s like that black goo. The sprinklers go off and we coat the audience with that stuff, and they’re pushed out of the club. The club empties and we go there and we curl up in the locker room, thinking the club owner is going to kill us – because he had a reputation for being some kind of gangster. So we thought, “Yeah, he’s going to come in with a machine gun and blow our heads off.” “

Instead, we are at this hotel, the Black Hawk Motor Inn. He arrives brandishing a bottle of scotch. I thought, “Oh, maybe he’ll hit us on the head with that?” “He puts it on the table and opens it and says:” This is the best show. [Geronimo’s] never had. “That was his attitude. He thought it was a great moment. I think he thought the publicity and reverberations that would come from it would be fantastic! I’m not sure if I was following his logic but nonetheless, that was the result.

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